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ABB’s African operations have seen three large projects come to fruition recently. The international specialist in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids has operations in 23 African countries and employs around 5000 people across the continent, and has added to its African portfolio with the inauguration of a traction transformer plant in South Africa.

ABB grows African contractsBased in Johannesburg, the new factory will produce traction transformers to help power trains and support South Africa’s growing railway network. Traction transformers feed power at safe voltages to essential train functions like traction, brakes, lighting, heating and ventilation, as well as passenger information, signalling and communication.

The 2450 square meter facility is expected to employ 60 people by the end of 2017 and the first major order to be executed at the new facility will be the supply of traction units for 240 Bombardier electric locomotives. The local manufacturing of these traction units supports the South African government’s local procurement and employment requirements.

“ABB is proud of this new traction transformer facility in South Africa, reiterating our philosophy of locating manufacturing units close to our customers,” Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB, said at the inauguration of the facility. “It reinforces our Next Level strategy focus on strengthening our presence in Africa and supports our ongoing commitment to sustainable mobility.”

The company’s aim to strengthen its African reach seems to be achieving success in the electrical sector, with ABB winning an order worth more than $30 million from Société nationale d'électricité (SNEL), the national electricity company of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as well as an order by Fluor for five intelligent compact disconnecting circuit breakers (DCBs) for the Oxygen Train 17 project for Sasol Synfuels Operations in Secunda.

The DRC project entails a partial upgrade of the Inga-Kolwezi high-voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission link. The contract is part of the FRIPT project financed by Glencore and managed by Congo Energy, a subsidiary of Forrest Group International.

The link transmits power from the Inga hydropower station on the Congo River to the mining district of Katanga in the south-east of the country. It also exports the excess power to the Southern African Power Pool countries.

The 1700 kilometre link was built by ABB in 1982 and was, at the time, the world’s longest transmission line. ABB upgraded the link in 2009, installing new thyristor valves, high-voltage apparatus and a control and protection system. The refurbishment will boost transmission capacity, enhance grid reliability, extend life span and ensure the efficient transmission of hydro-electricity across the region.

The retrofit will make it possible to increase transmission capacity from 520 megawatts (MW) to 1000 MW. ABB’s project scope includes system studies, supply of key equipment such as high voltage apparatus and commissioning.

The Fluor contract is ABB's first industry order for its advanced DCBs in South Africa. ABB will supply five DCBs rated at 145kV, 3150A nominal current and a fault level of 40kA. An earth switch for each circuit breaker is included. The units will come from Sweden and the cold commissioning will be done by ABB's local engineering team.

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